New pieces in OCP Breaking Bread: reviews/advice/critiques
  • There's a homely, comely new hymn in OCP's BB/MI 2010 issue, #315, entitled "We Gather Here to Worship." Though the lyrics, which I haven't the time to reproduce in full now, seem a bit didactic, they are decidedly not focused upon the "We" principle, but the "why" of "We gather..." The melodic/harmonic and formal structure are plain, mostly pentatonic (why so many "liturgical" composers fall back to pentatonicism is irksome.)
    But here's my question for this hymn: is the following verse theologically sound?

    "We gather here to celebrate your feast. We gather at the table you have spread.
    As once he did in history, So now in holy mystery, Christ gives himself,
    Christ gives himself in sacred wine and bread.
    We gather here to celebrate your feast."
    Text: Vicki Klima; Text and music: Rv. J. M. Joncas
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    Wow.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,777
    There really shouldn't be any separation between the Eucharistic offering and Christ's offering at the Last Supper, but the hymn seems to create a separation by speaking of "history" and "now". So is the Mass the same act of offering or not? It's made ambiguous.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Second rate words, second rate composer
    Donna
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    I would say that the song is arguing that the Last Supper and Mass are the same. As He did then, so He does now. All same-same.

    It's not theologically correct to say that Christ gives Himself _in_ sacred wine and bread, which is the real problem. (Consubstantiation, I think.) However, it certainly seems from context that the writer _means_ transubstantiation, but has learned from exposure to modern Catholic hymns that "in bread" and "in wine" is a perfectly fine expression. Very easy to do, very hard to escape mentally.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,777
    In case you'd like to hear the tune, here's a link to OCP's sample. You can even see a sample PDF of the whole thing.

    Sounds like it's still largely about us.

    Oh, and it's boring too.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    There are too many fine hymn writers around to waste time on this stuff just b/c it's Joncas
    Sorry, I'm being uncharitable, but I just can't stomach that stuff anymore

    Donna
  • 'So is the Mass the same act of offering or not? It's made ambiguous.' - Chonak

    That's my impression, too, Charles. Again, the food obsession... what's up with that? 'Feast' is only part of the Mass. It is a true sacrifice as well.

    Gather, celebrate, feast. Nothing wrong with those words in their proper balance, but they've been used too often as core manipulative buzz words to push an agenda. If I had to guess, I would say that Rev. Joncas is still attached to the hermeneutic of discontinuity. But you'd know about that better than me, Charles.

    [BTW, my computer broke, I your email address was lost. Would you kindly email me? I'd love to have an update on Wendy.]
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Care for some more soggy cold oatmeal to go with that Milktoast.
  • It's on the theological fence, isn't it? And, it's 'anybody's guess' what meaning should be attached to the words - perhaps this much was intentional. Why else be vague?

    Otherwise, it is an incredibly pedestrian bit of verse; utterly uninspired and insipid. Why would anyone who believes the Catholic Faith sing it?
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    certain phrases should be banned from new hymns because their overuse has made them cliche. I propose the following
    we gather
    spread your table
    gift of bread and wine
    tell the story
    come to the feast
    im sure theres many more. if this ban were in place it would effectively shut down the ocp-gia monopoly.
  • It sounds like a Lutheran song that serious Lutherans would not sing.

    I appreciate don roy's critique of overused phrases. I do think those phrases could be used intelligently, but their repeated use in these coffee house songs is too much.

    I would also suggest that singing the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the first person is something we should not do unless the hymn text includes quotes from Jesus clearly indicated by introduction in the text e.g., Jesus said, 'I am the Door...

    Long ago I maintained that Mercy Sister Suzanne Toolan's 'I am the Bread of Life" was far more compelling in the Second Person: "You are the Bread of Life. All who come to you shall not hunger. All who believe in you shall not thirst. No one can come to you unless the Father beckon. (or 'draw them') And You will raise us up, You will raise us up, You will raise us up on the Last Day."

    Sometimes when thinking of recasting this hymn I prefer English that is more Tudor than contemporary: "Thou art the Bread of Life. All who come to Thee shall not hunger. All who believe on Thee shall not thirst. No one may come to Thee unless the Father beckon. And Thou shalt raise us up, Thou shalt raise us up. Thou shalt raise us up on the Last Day." I wonder if Sr. Suzanne would permit such a variation of her text. While overused, Sr. Toolan's hymn clearly is vastly superior to this 'fence-riding' song --as Jackson so aptly put it. [ Please forgive my digression. ]
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    Not knowing the whole song, I don't know if the idea of Christ's self-offering on the cross is mentioned elsewhere. It seems to me that this would be, for Catholics, a necessary balancing point for "the offering of the meal."
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    oh yea, meal...lets ban that word too.
  • There are numerous eucharistic hymns of Protestant, particularly Anglican, provenance that are more deliberately and explicitly expressive of Catholic Faith than this sanitised doggerel. While debating in other discussions about the propriety of singing even non-heretical Protestant hymns, we have here one of numerous examples of a Catholic hymn which isn't, really, Catholic. Like so many, it 'covers all the bases' (except the right one), and was, perhaps, meant to. The proof is in the pudding - regardless of who made it.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    You know, the whole table/meal thing may have taken on such a life of its own, from more than just theological damping of sacrifice and emphasis on community and togetherness. Many families don't eat together anymore, and many single people never eat together except in a restaurant.

    So maybe these songs are calls for help, and pleas to be invited home for Sunday dinner?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    Why not just sing this? ;-) http://musicasacra.com/books/hymns/kp_o2.pdf
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    we could have a sunday dinner section in the back of the hymnal, just behind the social concerns! we could have hymns such as "Gather us at Wendys", "Be not alone (for dinner)" or "How great Thou eats"
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    As once he did in history, So now in holy mystery,


    Uh-oh -- sounds like SOMEONE's been listening to Barenaked Ladies' TV theme songs....

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,457
    I have never been able to figure out Joncas. There's the infamous psalm, "My soul is thirsting." It sounds like something from a gypsy camp. Is the man a frustrated composer of silent movie scores who missed his time and place? His music is theatrical, and there is stylistically nothing sacred about it. What's up with him?

    Oh, wait. There's far worse. Maybe I should give Joncas a break. For Christ the King, RitualSong has another goody that's even worse. "O God, this is the people who long to see your face" by Kevin Keil. I am not familiar with him, but I put the tremolo on the mighty Schantz for this one at rehearsal, and the choir rolled in the floor. I have to use it because the pastor has decreed we use what is in the book. A good argument for tossing the book, I think. Urgh! Where's the key to the liquor cabinet?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,657
    Don Roy

    That is too funny. And the meal list ban is priceless.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Interestingly enough, CharlesW, "...this is the people..." is today's Psalm, is it not?
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    Re: Keil

    As with some of the other psalms in the book, it's clear that the composer is trying to get a Jewish music sound. That's the way I sang it today when I cantored, and it worked fine. (It also helps that it's comfy to my range. But I know it's not to everyone's.)

    But honestly, if people want to sing Jewish tune settings of the psalms, wouldn't it be easier just to look up the public domain Jewish tunes and use those? I mean, obviously it would be challenging music, but it would also not be... well... one doesn't want to say fake, because obviously everyone has the right to try out different styles of composition. I like Keil's song and I don't want to rip the bread from his mouth. But it's not a Jewish cantor type song, really; just an impression.

    What I'd really like are some of those beautiful Lithuanian songs that they sing over at the Lithuanian parish. If we're going to go ethnic, hitting up Catholic ethnicities first would be nice (and less likely to cause interfaith problems).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,457
    "This is the people..." was the psalm for this morning. The keyboard accompaniment is theater-organish, and sounds ludicrous. But, it is the only setting in the book, so I had to use it. I am waiting for the new translations, because the pastor will then let us get a new hymnal. And you are right, Maureen. It does sound fake.
  • My organist has always said he could find a Broadway tune to fit anything Joncas and Haas ever wrote.
    We also sang the Keil setting today, but I could have used the R&A setting, except the congregation knows the Keil. I don't think he's Catholic. He also wrote ' One Spirit, One Church', but on the other hand he wrote a not bad setting of the Venantius(?) hymn for Holy Cross - O Crux Fidelis. I have seen stuff he's written for Ellen Jane also

    Donna
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    it is the only setting in the book, so I had to use it.


    Is that an order from above?
    Otherwise, you can pick a psalm tone, any psalm tone, and point what's in the lectionary.
    I am stuck with Goiter Reprehensive, and the preference of TPTB would be that I use its "psalms," and they'd be fine with seasonal antiphons.
    That they be English was not negotiable.
    So if the hymnal has an antiphon that isn't tooooo far off from the correct text I will use it, but then usually have the cantor or choir chant the verse, recto tono</> if necessary.
    If looking at what's written in the hymnal won't be too confusing for the congregation, that is to what they are directed; otherwise the page in the missallette containing the correct words is announced.
    Today, for instance, the people were told the words were in the missallette, then the cantor intoned the correct words but to the Keil tune (with the pick-up note omitted,) and there was only one iteration of the text.
    Then the lectionary verses were chanted on G.
    I also added some harmonization for the choir on the antiphon.
    (I spend half of my waking hours marking up the choir hymnals, it sometimes seems, adding masculine 3rd person singular pronouns, smoothing out bizarre alto parts, eliminating superfluous repeats...)
    And whatever the intentions of the composers seem to have been, the cantors and choir are told to treat it as if it were chant.

    I would prefer to just not use the "psalter" in Gather, but TPTB love them, and so far I've managed to keep them moderately happy while amending the most egregiously bad ones.

    The unusably-divergent from the authentic text settings that are extremely popular, (Shepherd Me, O God, for instance,) I'll try to squeeze in when appropriate as communions.

    And after several years, TPTB can no longer deny that the people sing just as loudly and enthusiastically on an a capella Gregorian tone as they do the most well-known of the "Sellebration Series Salms," (tones 2, 5 & 8)

    Save the Liturgy, Save the World
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,457
    "Is that an order from above?"

    Yes. The psalms must come from the "red" book, so the people have words and notes in front of them. I would love to put together a booklet with better psalms, but that has been nixed, too.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,066
    Charles, does the pastor know that the '94 Grail translation of the psalms in RitualSong is not approved for liturgical use? I suppose he might not care, but it is a sort of inclusive-language minefield...
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,457
    He probably doesn't know that. I think it's more a matter of economics. He spent the money for the books, so we will use them exclusively until the new translations force us to buy another one. I am trying to make the case that a separate hymnal and psalter make better sense, financially. If one goes out of date, the other can still be used.
  • I designed an organ for Kevin Keil at a parish and he was and is, I believe, Catholic. LOL, though not at him.
  • OCP shows Kevin's ONE SPIRIT, ONE CHURCH with the notation that the verses based on Comt Holy Ghost are copyright.

    They are "Come Holy Ghost" stretching the first quarter out to a half note. So a 3/4 hymn becomes 4/4 and becomes copyrightable?

    OCP loves to push the envelope.

    A-mazing Grace.
    Aaaaaaaaa-mazing Grace....now that's a new bit of Intellectual Property to make money on.

    Cooooooooooooooo-me Ho-ly Ghost. ©
  • I guess I thought he might not be Catholic b/c of very early things he wrote for Lorenz

    Donna